The typical number of years everyone expects to spend earning their bachelor’s degree is 4 years. I graduated high school in 2013, so I should have gotten my degree about 3 months ago. In reality, the actual average for a student to earn a bachelor’s degree is 6 years. In my case, I took a gap year that I think did more harm than good. I’m not saying all gap years are bad, but looking back, I regret mine.
After I graduated high school, I went into a bit of a slump/gap year. I took a retail job and spent lots of time hanging out with friends. Everyone is different, and for some people a gap year may be exactly what they need, but in retrospect I wish I would have just started with some general education classes. By not taking a break and instead starting right away, not only would I have finished sooner, I would have gotten some momentum that would have really sped up the process. The first thing I ever did for college was study for and take the Humanities CLEP. I took so long to study for this test and I really regret not just going for an easier exam to get some traction first. The Analyzing and Interpreting Literature CLEP would have been the perfect test to start with. (For more information on CLEPs and testing out of college, read here.)
After that first test, I kept stumbling along through various CBE’s (credit by exam) at a snail’s pace. It was so much harder than I anticipated to keep myself motivated with no outside forces. It took me about 2 and a half years before I enrolled in a local community college. I didn’t have to, but I wanted to because I was bored. This is when things started going much faster. It felt like I was a part of something, and not just on my own. I ended up taking various courses through Straighterline as well, and suddenly I was about 12 credits away from graduating. Now I have 9 credits to go, and I’m hoping to get everything done while completing my internship this semester, so I should be graduating in December.
For a detailed breakdown of how much I spent on my degree, read my blog post about it here.
What I would change
If I could do it again I would have done a few things differently. I think these changes could easily have saved me 1-2 years. I would have started with classes at my community college right off the bat. This would have helped put me in the “school” mindset right from the beginning and I think I would have gotten a lot more CLEPs done a lot faster- and even if I didn’t, at least I’d be making progress at the school. I would have started with easier CLEPs and not studied as long as I did for the “harder” ones. I took way too long to study for the tests I took and could have saved a lot of time by sticking to a study schedule and holding myself accountable to a deadline.College is not one-size-fits-all. Do what works for you! Click To Tweet
Alternatively, I could have started with some Straighterline courses instead. I found this format much more enjoyable and sped through a bunch of these when I discovered them. Finding the right combination of credit-earning courses, classes, and tests is so important. When I first started, I just assumed that CLEPs were going to be the perfect thing for me. I completely wrote off actual classes at my local community college because I thought they would be boring, and if I’m being honest, I was intimidated by the other students. Boy was I wrong- while I did take a few CLEPs and they worked for me, I would have done so much better going to a physical class and then supplementing with online courses like Study.com and Straighterline. You have to find what works for you! Try everything at least once.
Don’t waste time
At the end of the day my college “journey” is what it is. I grew so much as a result. The purpose of this article is to help you understand that any progress is better than no progress. Those first months right out of high school shouldn’t be wasted. After almost a year, I had only accrued 9 credits- and I didn’t feel any better from having taken a break. I didn’t feel like I had come to some great self awareness where I suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my life or that I had rested up and given myself renewed energy to conquer the mountain that is college. Instead, I just felt that I had wasted time. And time is one thing that should not be wasted.